As far as I can tell (not having pondered it over a dark and stormy night). there are basically two different general categories of being accidentally outed. One is circumstantial. That is, some incriminating item is discovered by someone you didn’t intend to know, or you are recognized out in public, or something similar. The other is spoken, which is to say that either you yourself said something that gave away your secret, or someone that you had trusted, and confided in either intentionally or unintentionally betrayed your trust and outed you to a third-party.
It is that last that is on my mind as I write tonight. I came across a story not long ago, which involved a CD whose activity was known to an accepting sister, however, this sister mentioned it to another family member who was “shocked and outraged” and proceeded to express her concern to everyone who would listen. This can be troubling beyond the obvious. Not only in that you are violated in by having your story told by someone else, but also that the initial breach was committed by someone you have entrusted – however unintentional it may have been.
This can be perhaps as difficult a circumstance as there is for a closeted CD because you have lost all control of your story and how it is presented. Worse these situations almost always seem to involve the a “hostile witness”. Someone who will is especially unwilling to present a sympathetic account. How do you handle a situation like that?
It partly depends (of course) on what, exactly, is at stake. If you are, for example, married to a supportive spouse, and are retired with no children than perhaps all it amounts to is serious embarrassment. On the other hand, it may be that you have all those things and more to lose. And yet, no matter how much or how little is at stake, it is still pretty much the worst possible outcome to have other people telling your story for you, when it is not theirs to tell.
I attest that I did not set out to write this particular entry so as to come to this particular conclusion, but here I am, and I can think of any other conclusion which makes sense. The best solution to the unintentional outting that makes sense – even if I am returning to the well that I drew from in my last previous post, is to take control of the situation in advance. It certainly depends on the depth of your involvement, and every situation is admittedly different (so don’t write me and say “you advised me to come out and my life is in ruins” – no one knows your situation better than you). But let your reason conquer your fear, at least think it through and consider which will end worse – telling your own story, or someone else telling it for you.
Photo by Dave Gingrich